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Friday, August 07, 2009

Downturn pushes exporters to eye Cambodia

Sai Gon Giai Phong Newspaper
As the wheels of Vietnam’s export machine to the U.S. and Europe begin to slow, local shippers are turning their attention to the often overlooked neighboring market of Cambodia.

Nguyen Thi Hong, deputy chairwoman of the Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Committee, told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Sai Gon Liberated) newspaper, the city’s total export turnover last month fell by 13.9 percent from the same period last year.

But it was a very different story in impoverished Cambodia. During the same stretch, exports from Vietnam soared 44 percent over July last year, she said.

Cambodia, home to 14 million people and one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries recorded average economic growth of ten percent from 2004 to 2008. Much of that progress can be tracked back to the UN-backed Paris Peace Accord between the government and Khmer Rouge in 1994.

The country has opened up a great deal since then and today the free market is king.

Between Vietnam and Cambodia - which have often had a turbulent relationship - two-way trade has risen on average by 40 percent annually over the past few years, from US$935 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2007 and nearly $1.7 billion in 2008.

Made-in-Vietnam goods have also gained a foothold in Cambodia through fairs and trade events held in the country.

About three years ago, Vietnam was the third largest exporter to Cambodia after China and Thailand. At present, Vietnamese exporters are offering a wide range of products in Cambodia, from construction materials to consumer goods and household appliances.

Tran Huu Duc, public relations director of Vietnamese food producer Dong Tam Nutrition Food Joint-stock Co. (Nutifood), said his company’s dairy products for the elderly are hugely popular in the country.

But in a possible case of the chickens coming home to roost, most Vietnamese exporters are still unable to gain a better foothold in the market as distribution networks in the country are firmly in the hands of Cambodian firms.

Red tape and fierce competition from Chinese and Thai imports are also among the obstacles for Vietnamese businesses to further explore the neighboring market.

Ho Chi Minh City-based multi-service Saigon Trading Group (SATRA) is working on a plan to build a duty free supermarket chain at the Moc Bai and Tinh Bien border gates between the two countries, Hong said.

A number of warehouses designed for Vietnamese goods will also be set up at Vietnam-Cambodia border gates to help Vietnamese exporters save transportation costs.

Satra is also teaming up with Cambodian business conglomerate Sokimex Group to build a supermarket for Vietnamese products in the country and provide Cambodian language courses for Vietnamese businessmen.

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Two dead as Typhoon Morakot slams into Taiwan

Taipei, Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan Friday, leaving at least two people dead, four missing and four foreign ships grounded off its coast.
A woman walking in Keelung, northern Taiwan, was swept into the sea and drowned, and a woman cyclist drowned after winds swept her and her bicycle into a flooded ditch.

Four fishermen are listed as missing after their fishing boats overturned in choppy seas and they fell overboard, local television reports said.

Dozens of Taiwanese were injured after being hit by falling objects or when their motorbikes were blown over, according to the Broadcasting Corporation of China.

The typhoon also grounded four foreign ships, two from Cambodia, one from Indonesia and one from the Marshall Islands, the Transport Ministry said.

President Ma Ying-jeou warned the public to remain on guard as the rainfall may continue and increase. He urged islanders to stay home to prevent accidents outdoors.

Morakot, the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan this year, formed over the Pacific Ocean earlier this week. It brought strong winds and torrential rains to Taiwan Thursday and Friday.

By 10 p.m. (1400 GMT) Friday, the eye of the typhoon was 40 km southeast of Hualien on the east coast.

Moving at 11 km per hour (kmph) in a northeasterly direction, it was packing centre winds of 144 kmph and gusts of 180 kmph.

If it maintains its course and speed, Morakot is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and slam into China’s southeast coast Saturday night or Sunday morning, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Morakot however is expected to weaken after crossing Taiwan.

The typhoon cut off power to about half a million homes and paralyzed Taiwan’s road and air traffic.

On Friday, 144 domestic flights and 255 international flights were cancelled while several takeoffs were delayed.

Taiwan has declared Friday a “typhoon holiday” to prevent typhoon-related accidents. Several counties and cities said they will continue to have a typhoon holiday Saturday despite Morakot’s expected departure.

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Cambodia records 24 flu A(H1N1) cases

PHNOM PENH, Cambodian health ministry announced on Friday that it has confirmed 24 cases of A(H1N1) influenza in the kingdom.

"The two latest cases are a 22-year-old Khmer girl and a 38-year-old Australian man," said Sok Touch, director of communicable disease control department of Health Ministry.

"The Australian man is the father of a girl who was tested positive for the flu," he said.

"They are in stable condition and are recovering after treatment."

Nobody has died so far in Cambodia, according to Sok Touch. He said, "Cambodia will not hide the number of infected people or dead people. Everything is transparent."

"Cambodia has been trying to prevent the spread of the flu and strengthening the tracking system at airports and international border gates," he said, calling the local people to protect themselves from the flu.

"The most important thing," Sok Touch stressed, "is that the local residents should have to protect themselves." (PNA/Xinhua) FFC/ebp

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UTSA collaborates with Cambodian universities on research, teaching, study abroad

By Kris Rodriguez


(Aug. 7, 2009)--In an effort to extend global outreach, UTSA President Ricardo Romo signed agreements with two Cambodian universities, which will allow faculty and students from the three universities to collaborate in research, teaching and participation in study abroad programs.

"I think it's really important for our students to get to know the rest of the world," said Romo. "We would be left behind if we didn't try to be a bit more proactive in setting up programs that would allow the students to see other parts of the world. We need to take advantage of these kinds of connections with other universities and let our students reap the benefits of those kinds of networks."

One memorandum of understanding is with Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), Cambodia's first and largest university. After opening in 1960, it was shut down from 1975 to 1979, along with all other schools and universities, by the Khmer Rouge. The university reopened in 1980. The second agreement is with Pannasastra University, a prestigious private university opened in 2000 by Cambodian Americans who fled the country because of the genocide. They returned to their home country with advanced degrees and started the university.

The collaborative efforts began earlier this year when Wayne Wright, UTSA associate professor of bicultural-bilingual studies, traveled on a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at RUPP in the master of education program. Wright, who is fluent in Cambodian, chose the country in order to contribute to the rebuilding of the education system devastated by genocide and decades of civil war. Additionally, he was able to introduce his children to the Cambodian language, history and culture and reconnect with his wife's family who live near the capital.

"I'll be supervising five master's students on their theses at RUPP and finishing up a research project I started with one of the faculty members there," said Wright. "My hope is to find funding to support a big collaborative research project related to teacher training in Cambodia that can involve all three universities."
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